She was a warrior — the Harriet Tubman of Jamaica. As Republicans question whether Democratic vice-presidential candidate Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), whose father was an immigrant from Jamaica and whose mother was an immigrant from India, is Black or even a descendant of enslaved Black people, they may want to consider the remarkable history of Nanny of the Maroons, a national hero in Jamaica.

Kamala Harris, daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, defines herself simply as ‘American’ Nanny, who appears on Jamaica’s $500 bill, was a fierce fighter who escaped slavery, freed more than 1,000 enslaved Black people from sugar plantations in Jamaica and waged a war, defeating the British during the First Maroon War from 1720 to 1739.

“She was a small, wiry woman with piercing eyes,” according to the Jamaica Information Service. “Her influence over the Maroons,” a rebel community of Black people who lived in the mountains of Jamaica, “was so strong, that it seemed to be supernatural and was said to be connected to her powers of Obeah.

She was particularly skilled in organizing the guerrilla warfare carried out by the Eastern Maroons to keep away the British troops who attempted to penetrate the mountains to overpower them.” Nanny is one of the most famous leaders of the Maroons, warriors who fought across the “New World,” including in South America, the United States and the Caribbean, resisting slavery in uprisings.

Many of these Maroons came from the West African empires of Ashanti and Dahomey and helped bring an end to slavery in Jamaica, where more than 600,000 enslaved Africans had been transported during the Transatlantic slave trade, from 1503 to 1807, according to the National Library of Jamaica.


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